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Objectivism and determinism

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I have always found this and similar discussions of free will tedious because there is a subtle importation of the mind-body dichotomy. The "will" is an aspect of the mind, and it is purported to be free of the crude determinism that rules matter. The body is material and subject to the same crude determinism that rules all matter. The debate that ensues is doomed. The only way out is to recognize the inherent falsehoods smuggled into the debate by the words "free" and "determinism."

Free does not mean free from identity and causality. The body includes the brain and whatever is the material manifestation of the mind. No aspect of the mind is supernatural as that would contradict its identity. Objectivism does not claim that the will is free to transcend the limitations imposed by blood sugar level, blood oxygenation, hormone level of melatonin or the myriad other antecedent factors that make consciousness possible at all. The only freedom of the will claimed by Objectivism is the very narrow and restricted freedom to choose to be more active or more passive as a conceptual conscious entity than in the previous moment. The fact of consciousness is logically and chronologically prior to the will that modulates it.

Determinism is not crude. There have been many claims made in this thread about the nature of deterministic systems, their predictibility and calculability. I would direct your attention to the n-body problem (where n is much greater than 3), and then claim that not only is the realm of crude materialism not practically calculable for real systems but it is not even theoretically calculable. The idea of determinism as billiard balls whose positions, velocities, and masses are all perfectly known and theoretically predictable, is a fantasy realm which is not even a correct understanding of determinism.

There is not yet any detailed explanation of "how consciousness works." Even if there was, explaining something in terms of lower level entities doesn't annihilate it. Free will obeys identity and causality, and causality is more general than determinism. There is no contradiction.

I nominate this as the best first post ever on the forum! Welcome, and I am looking forward to reading more of your writing. :thumbsup:

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It is essential to distinguish control from influence - your previously held knowledge, opinions and mood may influence your choice, but that influence is not controlling (this is another way of saying that you cannot "bind your future choices"). Nothing you think at time t can guarantee what your choice will be at time t+1. Your freedom to choose is always interposed, not only between external stimulus and response, but also between past and future. The same basic choice confronts you at each moment, so that you must choose whether to follow what your previously held knowledge, opinions and mood are suggesting, or not. Do you accept this distinction?

Hi. OK, time for reply.

I don't think that previously held knowledge, opinions and mood control your future thinking, nor would I say they "influence" it.

The connection is more unique.

I think that the combination of every piece of knowledge, idea, subconscious and conscious thinking including present input from environment - in short all your mental content plus input do determine one outcome. (I am not certain of this, but I think this is what evidence suggests.) But we are human beings - our mood and opinions do not act on their own to impose a thinking process. We actively analyze things, learn and decide. We can change the way we think and what we know at every moment. This is why I denied the word "control". However, I also do not observe (from introspection) a case in which the way I analyzed or decided something, did not build from past mental content. It never happened to me, for example, that I suddenly started thinking unlike a way which is typical of me, or that I somehow thought of something which came out of nowhere. There was always a build up. Therefore, I do not see anything in my introspection that suggests that my will is non-deterministic, and that another outcome was possible at any given moment. (I also don't see from introspection absolute evidence that my will is determined).

Hope I answered your question. If not, please ask again.

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Ifat, are you sure you understand Objectivist view on free will properly? What was tricky for me to understand (and I struggled with the same problem you do now) is that free will does not mean there is a dice inside your head that can make you do unpredictable things. You always do what YOU decide to do, your actions are determined by YOUR identity, not somebody else's. And the part of that identity is that, unlike many other enities, what you can be initiated by your choice to do it (which you could have decided otherwise), not external influence.

A ball in space will continue inertial motion until affected by external force, man will not. That's what free will means.

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Ifat, are you sure you understand Objectivist view on free will properly?

No, I don't. I haven't read introduction to Objectivist epistemology yet. So whatever I write is mainly to present my own understanding, and sometimes I argue against something someone here says if I disagree with it. But not against the Oist theory, because I don't yet know exactly (in full detail) what it is.

What was tricky for me to understand (and I struggled with the same problem you do now) is that free will does not mean there is a dice inside your head that can make you do unpredictable things. You always do what YOU decide to do, your actions are determined by YOUR identity, not somebody else's.

Yes, I agree so far.

And the part of that identity is that, unlike many other entities, what you can be initiated by your choice to do it (which you could have decided otherwise), not external influence.

I disagree about "could have been otherwise". Just because we have a will, we choose things, does not mean we could have thought or chosen otherwise what we already have.

A ball in space will continue inertial motion until affected by external force, man will not. That's what free will means.

Man is not a ball of snow. We have ability to think, revise our thinking, learn, choose etc'. But none of them mean, in my understating, that you could have also done the very opposite under exact same circumstances.

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A ball in space will continue inertial motion until affected by external force, man will not. That's what free will means.

A man in space will still not be able to violate the laws of physics. He will continue in inertial motion until affected by an external force.

But, I agree with the rest of your post.

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A man in space will still not be able to violate the laws of physics. He will continue in inertial motion until affected by an external force.

But, I agree with the rest of your post.

I'm surprised you agree with lex_aver, I thought you were one of the ones denying volition?

Do you agree that in the inertial motion situation described that the outcome would be different for a dog and a man?

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Hi. OK, time for reply.

I don't think that previously held knowledge, opinions and mood control your future thinking, nor would I say they "influence" it.

The connection is more unique.

I think that the combination of every piece of knowledge, idea, subconscious and conscious thinking including present input from environment - in short all your mental content plus input do determine one outcome. (I am not certain of this, but I think this is what evidence suggests.) But we are human beings - our mood and opinions do not act on their own to impose a thinking process. We actively analyze things, learn and decide. We can change the way we think and what we know at every moment. This is why I denied the word "control". However, I also do not observe (from introspection) a case in which the way I analyzed or decided something, did not build from past mental content. It never happened to me, for example, that I suddenly started thinking unlike a way which is typical of me, or that I somehow thought of something which came out of nowhere. There was always a build up. Therefore, I do not see anything in my introspection that suggests that my will is non-deterministic, and that another outcome was possible at any given moment. (I also don't see from introspection absolute evidence that my will is determined).

Hope I answered your question. If not, please ask again.

We need to reduce this back to the primary choice of whether or not to focus - the choice upon which all the others depend. The primary choice is irreducible - it cannot be explained by one's own mental contents because the choice to focus must precede any such contents (to grasp and apply the contents of one's own mind presupposes conceptual awareness). The primary choice is a first cause; it is not preceded by antecedent mental factors. Hence, the choice "could have been otherwise", and it is invalid to ask what causes it.

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We need to reduce this back to the primary choice of whether or not to focus - the choice upon which all the others depend. The primary choice is irreducible - it cannot be explained by one's own mental contents because the choice to focus must precede any such contents (to grasp and apply the contents of one's own mind presupposes conceptual awareness). The primary choice is a first cause; it is not preceded by antecedent mental factors. Hence, the choice "could have been otherwise", and it is invalid to ask what causes it.

Hmm, do you mean that in order for a person to have any ideas and knowledge that person must have made a choice to focus at the time of acquiring and using the knowledge? And that this choice is a "primary" choice [in your post]?

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Hmm, do you mean that in order for a person to have any ideas and knowledge that person must have made a choice to focus at the time of acquiring and using the knowledge? And that this choice is a "primary" choice [in your post]?

That is correct.

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I'm surprised you agree with lex_aver, I thought you were one of the ones denying volition?

No. That's a false assumption. In fact, I went to great lengths to describe the mind and how it must exist in a Deterministic world. Yet, you still made the assumption.

Do you agree that in the inertial motion situation described that the outcome would be different for a dog and a man?

Well, they have different inertia based on their mass and such, but they still move according to the principle of inertia.

I started this topic to answer the question: "Why do Objectivists deny Determinism?" All that I got was empty claims. "It looks as though I have free will through introspection, so Determinism is false." I never got an explaination as to why people think that Free Will does not allow Determinism, or rather, how it can exist without Determinism. People were just repeating the claim over and over.

Anyways, this question has been answered already. The question, which had become a discussion, is over. There was plenty of time for people to object to my thoughts, which were without contradiction. I even asked someone to show where they thought the contradiction lay:

What is your disagreement with Determinism? What are the contradictions?

Please state them if you can.

No one said a thing.

No one provides a model of what's going on, they just say Free Will exists and Determinism must not exist as a consequence. Perhaps people are confusing Determinism with Fatalism. That would explain a lot.

In any case, here is everything explained nicely by other posters. They did a better job than I ever could, but that's okay. At least it's been made clear.

I don’t see what this misunderstanding is about.

It is obvious that we have free will; however that does not mean that we ought not to explore what we actually mean by “free will”. To say that that it is self evident is at best careless and at worst the risk of assuming a mistake, not to mention that it is obviously not so self evident considering that some people don’t understand what is meant by “free will”. Needless to say, the “free” in “free will” has been used and abused many times. Without defining what is meant by free will, any discussion about it collapses into a meaningless game without any solid rules.

Know that I don’t enter this discussion with the interest to “win” I merely want to understand what this problem is about. Sometimes, knowing why something is wrong can be more revealing that knowing why something is right.

Now to the problem; what do I mean by free will? I'm not sure if it is out of evasiveness that no one has been willing to throw out a definition, but let me give it a try.

My definition is simply; will that is internally unrestricted, e. g. if I go down to the kitchen to get something to eat, I choose whatever I will to choose. By “internally” I mean consciously, subconscious actions are not affected by free will (but the process of learning the subconscious reactions could very well be conscious). If I wanted (consciously) to get a sandwich, but my body somehow decided to get an apple, my will would not be free. It is important to note that it is only in case of a choice that free will must be unrestricted. If I would will to do something physically impossible, and find myself unable to do so it is not a breach of free will as impossible actions do not constitute choices, more on choices later.

By “free will” I do not mean free from causation and identity. A free will is not a “first cause”, it does not choose arbitrarily and it is just like everything else; caught in the chain of determinism. The free will acts in accordance to its identity and to say that under the exact same event—where the mind has the same identity—would yield different outcomes is as far as I understand impossible. The very reason I choose what I choose is due to my mental (internal) identity. Only in case of a magic will, somehow free from causation, would it be possible to see different outcomes of the same events.

A choice is an instance in which our internal identity determines the outcome, and only if the identity is different, could the outcome change. The reason why it is a choice for me to pick what I want to eat is because of my internal identity. If whatever is in my head at the moment was different, a different choice would have been a possibility. If someone else was in the exact same situation, they might make a different choice. Likewise, it is enough that a different mind was “possessing” my body, a different choice could be made. That mean that choices are not really choices as we usually think of them, as only one outcome is possible, but this outcome is entirely dictated by my conscious state; the identity of my conscious mind. This does of course not mean that external events do not affect the choice, if there was a sandwich on a table in front of me, my degree of hunger would affect the choice, however it would not dictate it (otherwise it would obviously not be a choice).

So does this mean that since my choices are “determined”, that responsibility becomes impossible? That since my actions are determined, if I would for example kill someone, I would be no less guilty that a stone that falls to the ground due to gravity? I would say the exact opposite is true; it is since I have a determined identity that responsibility can exist in the first place. If a person’s will could suddenly (magically) turn into a different will, then how could it be object to responsibility?

Let me also define determinism so that there is no confusion over the term:

That an action is determined mean that there is a single outcome and that if all information is provided it is possible to calculate the outcome. That “if” is quite important, as it is possible (and often expected) to be unable to determine the future states of a system, due to inadequate information (the weather is a good example). However that does not mean that the system is not deterministic. It is even possible to have deterministic systems that are always impossible to predict, since the information required to do so is unattainable. For example all the digits of pi are determined, yet we will never know them all, as there are an infinite number of them.

An example of a system that behaves deterministically, yet was once unpredictable is the orbit of the planets. To claim that since we cannot currently predict something does not imply that it is not a deterministic process. To say that since we don’t know every state in a system, it cannot be deterministic is obviously wrong. While I was not around at the time, I’m quite sure that the planets did not behave erratically before we put up the laws “forcing” them to have determined orbits.

As Tensorman proved quite nicely, there is no paradox in predicting the whole of reality; such a thing is impossible, unless you are “outside” of reality and it thus becomes a system isolated from the prediction.

I have always found this and similar discussions of free will tedious because there is a subtle importation of the mind-body dichotomy. The "will" is an aspect of the mind, and it is purported to be free of the crude determinism that rules matter. The body is material and subject to the same crude determinism that rules all matter. The debate that ensues is doomed. The only way out is to recognize the inherent falsehoods smuggled into the debate by the words "free" and "determinism."

Free does not mean free from identity and causality. The body includes the brain and whatever is the material manifestation of the mind. No aspect of the mind is supernatural as that would contradict its identity. Objectivism does not claim that the will is free to transcend the limitations imposed by blood sugar level, blood oxygenation, hormone level of melatonin or the myriad other antecedent factors that make consciousness possible at all. The only freedom of the will claimed by Objectivism is the very narrow and restricted freedom to choose to be more active or more passive as a conceptual conscious entity than in the previous moment. The fact of consciousness is logically and chronologically prior to the will that modulates it.

Determinism is not crude. There have been many claims made in this thread about the nature of deterministic systems, their predictibility and calculability. I would direct your attention to the n-body problem (where n is much greater than 3), and then claim that not only is the realm of crude materialism not practically calculable for real systems but it is not even theoretically calculable. The idea of determinism as billiard balls whose positions, velocities, and masses are all perfectly known and theoretically predictable, is a fantasy realm which is not even a correct understanding of determinism.

There is not yet any detailed explanation of "how consciousness works." Even if there was, explaining something in terms of lower level entities doesn't annihilate it. Free will obeys identity and causality, and causality is more general than determinism. There is no contradiction.

Edited by Martian

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The 10th page of a discussion is not a good place to post, but anyway :P

maartian and ifat,

why do you continue to use the some of the following words in your discussions if you believe that the world is deterministic?

possible (in the sense of possible in future, not in the sense of insufficient evidence to evaluate truth value of a proposition):

if everything is deterministic, that is a concept that should only be used by the unenlightened

choice:

a choice pre-supposes alternatives and independent entities to make that choice. With a unique, determined evolution of the universe, there are no alternatives. Also no entities are independent in any meaningful sense. There is just one enormously complex system.

purpose:

with no independent entities and no possibility of changing the pre-determined evolution, whatever could purpose mean?

I could go on and on with a huge number of words.

You see, free will being axiomatic, a huge number of our concepts depend on it. I challenge you to restate your posts without such concepts.

But of course, the only answer you can give is that you cannot help using these concepts. Their validity or otherwise is besides the point. What you do is predetermined.

You see, it is impossible for me to argue if you deny free will. What would the point be anyway? Since I know that I have free will and do not want to engage in a discussion without a purpose, I will not make another post on this thread.

Of course if you are predetermined to continue posting, nothing can stop you.

P.S. Of course there is probably nothing that I have added that others have not already said on this thread before, but I could not resist posting (could it be that my actions are determined? ;) )

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The 10th page of a discussion is not a good place to post, but anyway :P

Better late than never.

maartian and ifat,

why do you continue to use the some of the following words in your discussions if you believe that the world is deterministic?

I think there is a big misunderstanding of what Determinism is.

possible (in the sense of possible in future, not in the sense of insufficient evidence to evaluate truth value of a proposition):

if everything is deterministic, that is a concept that should only be used by the unenlightened

It appears that things could have been different because of our lack of knowledge about what's going to come next. If you throw a football into the air, which way will it bounce? Oh. Is there a possibility that it will bounce in any direction? Well, yeah, as far as we can tell it could have bounced in any direction, but that is because any minute change in the football will result in it bouncing completely different. We don't see these minute changes. So, the difference in the bounces coupled with the seemingly no difference in its motion leaves us to believe that it has the ability to bounce in any way it pleases because it has free will. Or... not? Perhaps the ball is Deterministic, and the word "possible" means our rough prediction of what we think might come next. But really, there is no other way the ball would have bounced given the same conditions.

choice:

a choice pre-supposes alternatives and independent entities to make that choice. With a unique, determined evolution of the universe, there are no alternatives. Also no entities are independent in any meaningful sense. There is just one enormously complex system.

Right, our choices are created by our identities (I should have used this word before, but I learned about it only recently). Our identities are made of Deterministic parts. To say that a man chooses differently, against his identity, is to say that he chooses without his own Will.

purpose:

with no independent entities and no possibility of changing the pre-determined evolution, whatever could purpose mean?

Well, if you're trying to say that we have pre-existing purpose, then I don't agree with you. I say that purpose is created by the identy of man, which is created by his Deterministic parts.

I could go on and on with a huge number of words.

You see, free will being axiomatic, a huge number of our concepts depend on it. I challenge you to restate your posts without such concepts.

I disagree with this. Is flower-growing axiomatic? It's apparent that it grows, and we don't understand how it does this exactly. So, there must be a flower-growing axiom to explain it. I don't think so. A flower is Deterministic, simple as that.

But of course, the only answer you can give is that you cannot help using these concepts. Their validity or otherwise is besides the point. What you do is predetermined.

My identity is pre-Determined.

You see, it is impossible for me to argue if you deny free will. What would the point be anyway? Since I know that I have free will and do not want to engage in a discussion without a purpose, I will not make another post on this thread.

Of course if you are predetermined to continue posting, nothing can stop you.

You confuse Determinism with Fatalism.

P.S. Of course there is probably nothing that I have added that others have not already said on this thread before, but I could not resist posting (could it be that my actions are determined? :o )

It's true. Everyone is confusing Determinism with Fatalism. But, of course, to refute Fatalism does not refute Determinism. This is a rather large blunder on the part of many of the people posting here.

Edited by Martian

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I'm surprised you agree with lex_aver, I thought you were one of the ones denying volition?

Nope, no assumption made. Here is where you deny volition:

Determinism: the idea that all events are causally determined by their antecedents and therefore in principle predictable

So either you don't remember what you said or you are dishonest. I tend to think the latter because it goes along with your evasion of my question when I asked:

Do you agree that in the inertial motion situation described that the outcome would be different for a dog and a man?

And you replied:

Well, they have different inertia based on their mass and such, but they still move according to the principle of inertia.

Does their inertial movement have anything to do with the essential difference we are discussing? Are all of their movements determined by their inertia? Are all of their actions determined? What about when the man, after considering his fate to float helplessly through space, decides to remove his helmet? Was that action determined?

Is there no experiment that you can perform to convince yourself that you have freewill? I proposed one in the other thread on determinism that you should conduct but here is another: wiggle your finger three times, now wiggle your finger ten times, now wiggle your finger x times. Are you convinced yet? If not then wiggle your finger indefinitely until you either starve or are convinced.

I know, you still aren't convinced, determinism rules, everything occurred as it was predetermined to: since the beginning of time it was determined that on one particular planet around one particular sun life would evolve to humans, that all of my previous ancestors would live and die as they have, that my parents would meet and fall in love, that they would decide to have three children, that the middle one would be a boy born in December, that I would grow up destined to befriend who I did, that I would study what I have studied, that Ayn Rand would be born in Russia, that she would write "Atlas Shrugged" using the exact words she did, that I would come to admire Ayn Rand, that I would join this forum, that I would engage a determinist in the predetermined discussion we are now having, that I would tell you to wiggle your finger not four and fourteen times but three and ten times, that I would then try to convince this determinist that he had freewill by letting him decide how many times to wiggle it, that I would try to convince him by telling him to wiggle his finger and not by waiting in the street for the next bus to come along. You cannot be serious.

I started this topic to answer the question: "Why do Objectivists deny Determinism?" All that I got was empty claims. [...] I never got an explaination [...]

No..., it's just that the elegance of the explanation has escaped you. The question, for those of us that accept the existence of free will, is: for someone who denies the existence of volition, is it possible to convince them otherwise? The question itself is a contradiction when it comes out of the mouth of someone who actually believes in determinism. We could say that every word you utter, every sentence you read, every thought you think, every thing you do presupposes the existence of free will but of course you will say "that is a circular argument" or "prove it". Instead we have to come in the back door and appeal to whatever is left of your rational faculty. So you get replies like this:

What do you mean when you say "agree"?

[...]

when you say that posters agreed, what exactly do you mean? Did you see something in their posts that indicated they could have disagreed? Is that possible under a thesis of determinism?

Which is so elegantly simple it almost makes me cry with joy. But of course to a determinist bound by the words of a computer programmer only a robotic reply is possible:

That's a little too deep, I don't see why you are asking these questions.

It does not compute...it does not compute. Agree implies disagreement, there are no contradictions, disagreement does not compute, infinite loop, computer crash. And what does it mean when a computer programmer discovers an infinite loop?: there is a problem with the program. Thus the crystal ball. And how do you solve this mystery?: by proposing another infinite loop. Complete nonsense, literally -- this view does not explain what you observe every day so it is hard for anyone to take you seriously, like here:

Anyways, this question has been answered already. The question, which had become a discussion, is over. There was plenty of time for people to object to my thoughts, which were without contradiction. I even asked someone to show where they thought the contradiction lay:

[...]

No one said a thing.

When you say: "no one said a thing" are you suggesting that it could have been otherwise? Don't you see how you are denying volition and presupposing it all at the same time? Believing in determinism as you do, everything you have said in this thread is a contradiction. You are stuck in an infinite loop, snap out of it. You seem to be getting upset, why? If all of us are determined machines that believe we have free will, then how much time is enough time to convince us we are not? Again, infinite loop.

No one provides a model of what's going on, they just say Free Will exists and Determinism must not exist as a consequence. Perhaps people are confusing Determinism with Fatalism. That would explain a lot.

The universe follows the laws of cause and effect, this includes both volitional behavior and deterministic action.

If you want further validation and explanation then ask but just realize when you do you are already accepting volition. If you want us to convince, explain, or reason with you, realize these concepts mean nothing without volition. On the other hand if you want to disagree, argue, and deny volition, you still have accepted free will.

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When you say: "no one said a thing" are you suggesting that it could have been otherwise? Don't you see how you are denying volition and presupposing it all at the same time? Believing in determinism as you do, everything you have said in this thread is a contradiction. You are stuck in an infinite loop, snap out of it. You seem to be getting upset, why? If all of us are determined machines that believe we have free will, then how much time is enough time to convince us we are not? Again, infinite loop.

Great post, Marc.

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Nope, no assumption made. Here is where you deny volition:

[a quote of my provided definition of Determinism]

So either you don't remember what you said or you are dishonest. I tend to think the latter because it goes along with your evasion of my question when I asked:

[a quote of your question as to whether or not man is subject to inertia]

And you replied:

[a quote of me saying yes]

I don't see what honesty has to do with it. You haven't shown any contradiction. You haven't even explained how volition can exist without determinism.

This is the turning point of the discussion. You are misrepresenting my position by assuming what my claim is. I said I accept volition AND determinism. You are saying they are not compatible. But, you haven't explained why determinism is not compatible with volition. Of course, if you define volition or free will or whatever else as not being deterministic, then yeah, it does contradict the idea of determinism. But, that's not what free will is. Free will is the property of conscious entities to make an effect based on information. That doesn't mean a person can choose to violate inertia, or any other physical law. My question to you, or anyone else that claims this is so, how can free will exist apart from determinism? (Because the opposite of determinism is randomness). I merely propose that, just like all that we have seen in nature, our materialistic parts follow the same laws, and that our mind is the emergent property based on these laws. What you are proposing is the existence of the soul, you do realize this?

Does their inertial movement have anything to do with the essential difference we are discussing? Are all of their movements determined by their inertia? Are all of their actions determined? What about when the man, after considering his fate to float helplessly through space, decides to remove his helmet? Was that action determined?

For your first question, no, it doesn't have much of anything to do with what we're discussing. I was just pointing out to lex_aver that what he said in that sentence wasn't true.

For your second question, yes, all movements must obey the laws of inertia. Are we debating the validity of physics now?

For your third question, yes, all actions are determined.

For your fourth and fifth question, yes, the man's actions are determined. (mind you, that this is what makes his will)

Is there no experiment that you can perform to convince yourself that you have freewill? I proposed one in the other thread on determinism that you should conduct but here is another: wiggle your finger three times, now wiggle your finger ten times, now wiggle your finger x times. Are you convinced yet? If not then wiggle your finger indefinitely until you either starve or are convinced.

Don't you remember? I accept free will, I have never denied it. I'm saying that based upon the identity created up from deterministic parts, does the mind and will exist.

I know, you still aren't convinced, determinism rules, everything occurred as it was predetermined to: since the beginning of time it was determined that on one particular planet around one particular sun life would evolve to humans, that all of my previous ancestors would live and die as they have, that my parents would meet and fall in love, that they would decide to have three children, that the middle one would be a boy born in December, that I would grow up destined to befriend who I did, that I would study what I have studied, that Ayn Rand would be born in Russia, that she would write "Atlas Shrugged" using the exact words she did, that I would come to admire Ayn Rand, that I would join this forum, that I would engage a determinist in the predetermined discussion we are now having, that I would tell you to wiggle your finger not four and fourteen times but three and ten times, that I would then try to convince this determinist that he had freewill by letting him decide how many times to wiggle it, that I would try to convince him by telling him to wiggle his finger and not by waiting in the street for the next bus to come along. You cannot be serious.

Indeed, things must have happened one way (or it would be random). Why do you propose that it would have happened differently? To say that a person acted differently then to what he would have chosen based on his identity, is nonsense. You cannot be serious. If you reject this, then things are arbitrary and the concept of will is meaningless.

No..., it's just that the elegance of the explanation has escaped you. The question, for those of us that accept the existence of free will, is: for someone who denies the existence of volition, is it possible to convince them otherwise? The question itself is a contradiction when it comes out of the mouth of someone who actually believes in determinism. We could say that every word you utter, every sentence you read, every thought you think, every thing you do presupposes the existence of free will but of course you will say "that is a circular argument" or "prove it". Instead we have to come in the back door and appeal to whatever is left of your rational faculty.

I accept free will. I don't accept that the will is free from itself.

It does not compute...it does not compute. Agree implies disagreement, there are no contradictions, disagreement does not compute, infinite loop, computer crash. And what does it mean when a computer programmer discovers an infinite loop?: there is a problem with the program. Thus the crystal ball. And how do you solve this mystery?: by proposing another infinite loop. Complete nonsense, literally -- this view does not explain what you observe every day so it is hard for anyone to take you seriously[...]

You are speaking in terms of information when you say there is a disagreement. No contradictions? Information can contradict. Also, infinite loops are fine, we used to program games with one long repeating loop. There is no problem with this, an infinite loop isn't necessarily wrong. But in this case, your loop doesn't even apply.

As for the crystal ball, there is no problem. That is because if the crystal ball gives information to a mind, that information will change the mind. Causing different outcome. This is explained entirely though the principle of determinism. It is only possible (by possible I mean able to if we had enough computability and information, which we absolutely do not have) to affect minds that are not given additional information to change. There is no loop.

When you say: "no one said a thing" are you suggesting that it could have been otherwise? Don't you see how you are denying volition and presupposing it all at the same time? Believing in determinism as you do, everything you have said in this thread is a contradiction. You are stuck in an infinite loop, snap out of it. You seem to be getting upset, why? If all of us are determined machines that believe we have free will, then how much time is enough time to convince us we are not? Again, infinite loop.

I'm saying that the brain has an identity which cannot act against itself. I'm saying that from our observational point of view, anything could have happened, as far as we can see. That doesn't mean that something could have happened differently, it just means that we can't predict what an entity will do, due to a lack of information and computability. But, it still has an identity. For example:

If we put a slice pizza in front of a hungry man, we could think to ourselves, what is he going to do: eat the pizza, or not eat the pizza? The thought process he goes through results in a choice of action. He follows his greatest desire and either he eats the pizza or doesn't eat the pizza. Let's say he eats the pizza. Later on, we approach this man and talk to him about his choice. Let's say he claims that he ate the pizza because it was his favorite food, and he was pretty hungry. He goes on to say that he could have chosen to not the pizza, had he so desired (as part of his identity). But, that wasn't his desire (meaning it wasn't part of his identity).

Let's put the idea to the test.

If we offer him another slice of pizza, and he really wants it, he can still reject it to show that he can choose to not eat the pizza. You would say, that is because he can choose anything. But that is not so. He chose not to eat the pizza because his desire to show that he can choose to not eat the pizza is greater than his desire to eat the pizza. As you can see, man always follows his desires. His desires/will are created from deterministic parts. There is no free will force or spirit or soul or whatever you want to call it that violates physical laws. Our will must be anchored into a deterministic world, or they are arbitrary an pointless, as I have said before.

If we educate him of the dangers of eating pizza, that it is not good for his health (lets pretend that pizza is very damaging to one's health), things would possibly be different. When he is hungry again, we offer him a slice of pizza. Again, he will follow his greatest desire. If his greatest desire is for good health, then he will reject the pizza. If his good health is not important to him, and he is hungry and loves pizza (making eating pizza his greatest desire), then he will eat the pizza.

Of course there are many other reasons that he could accept or reject the pizza. I just simplified this situation to help convey the idea. I hoped this helped.

The universe follows the laws of cause and effect, this includes both volitional behavior and deterministic action.

This volitional behavior comes out of nowhere. Your proposal for the soul is unnecessary. If you don't propose the soul, explain what you're saying.

If you want further validation and explanation then ask but just realize when you do you are already accepting volition. If you want us to convince, explain, or reason with you, realize these concepts mean nothing without volition. On the other hand if you want to disagree, argue, and deny volition, you still have accepted free will.

A-okay. What I really want you to do, is to explain where volition comes from. Because, electrons, protons, neutrons and such will still act according to their natures (like you said, cause and effect). What makes them act otherwise to become "animated". What makes the brain have this property and everything else not? Or perhaps, they follow their natures to come together to form this emergent property called the mind?

I'm making an effort to explain these things, but all of this has been explained.

See the two other posts: by Anmae and by Grames

Edited by Martian

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Both determinism and indeterminism disimply free will. Whether the processes that compose us act in accordance to strict physical laws (determinism) or completely randomized events (indeterminism) the fact remains that we cannot control that which composes the faculties of our conciousness. Whether the dice fall according to predictable laws or in a completely arbitrarily dynamic fashion doesn't change the fact that we don't throw the dice, they throw themselves.

Edited by Zarathustra

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Both determinism and indeterminism disimply free will. Whether the processes that compose us act in accordance to strict physical laws (determinism) or completely randomized events (indeterminism) the fact remains that we cannot control that which composes the faculties of our conciousness. Whether the dice fall according to predictable laws or in a completely arbitrarily dynamic fashion doesn't change the fact that we don't throw the dice, they throw themselves.

That is true, we cannot choose our will. But that doesn't matter because that would render the will meaningless.

Also, to try to separate the processes within a person's brain that determine his/her choice and the person itself, is not valid. That is because they are the same.

[TO ALL]

Basically, I agree that free will exists, but I also think that the definition that is commonly used is flawed. Free will is defined as the ability to violate cause and effect laws of matter, while the will itself is based on an irreducible soul. This is obviously false because it violates our objective observations. The way that we must consider free will is, as the ability for an entity to examine a wide variety of options and determine which fits its will. In addition, introspective analysis cannot reveal the nature of the atoms that compose a person. I don't understand why this subjective information trumps objective information in this case within the philosophy of Objectivism. This is just too ironic.

It all makes sense under determinism. No other explanation works. I challenge anyone to present a valid counterargument. If you call for the existence of the soul, explain what you mean.

Edited by Martian

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Basically, I agree that free will exists, but I also think that the definition that is commonly used is flawed. Free will is defined as the ability to violate cause and effect laws of matter, while the will itself is based on an irreducible soul. This is obviously false because it violates our objective observations. The way that we must consider free will is, as the ability for an entity to examine a wide variety of options and determine which fits its will. In addition, introspective analysis cannot reveal the nature of the atoms that compose a person. I don't understand why this subjective information trumps objective information in this case within the philosophy of Objectivism. This is just too ironic.

It all makes sense under determinism. No other explanation works. I challenge anyone to present a valid counterargument. If you call for the existence of the soul, explain what you mean.

The point is that you cannot objectively observe your objective observations of your objective observations of ...

From an outside perspective, yes, determinism makes sense. But when deciding if you have a free will or not you cannot look from an outside perspective on yourself. So you can't say that your actions determined. Once you think about yourself being determined by your environment you are already affecting yourself and the decision what action to take. And if you don't think about what external influences there are that have an effect on your decisions then you are determined by them. You choose not to think, if you do that your actions are determined by your environment.

If you go through the supermarket and blindly grab random items then your eating habits will be determined by the choice of the owner of the supermarket what goods to present to you. If you instead inform yourself about the nutritions and visit special stores then your eating habits are not determined, you have the choice (not very good example, I don't want to say that supermarkets are bad, I just wanted to make the point of choice/determinism).

To summarize: You have a free will only as far as you use your mind. If you don't make a conscious choice then the choice will be made by someone (or something, e.g. a natural law) else.

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The point is that you cannot objectively observe your objective observations of your objective observations of ...

I think I see what you're saying here. But, I want to show you that the idea that is widely accept as an explanation free will, is false. To say that your molecules are not obeying the laws of physics is just a bad inference. It's like assuming that an illusionist is doing real magic. Tell me this, do you think that the matter in your body follows that laws of physics? Tell me this, do you think that the matter in the illusionist's "magic" is following the laws of physics? If you say "yes" to both questions, then you are a determinist. If you say "no" to both questions, then you are not a determinist, and we cannot continue a discussion on this because we have different premises. If you said "yes" to one, and "no" to the other, I'd like you to explain how this can be.

From an outside perspective, yes, determinism makes sense. But when deciding if you have a free will or not you cannot look from an outside perspective on yourself. So you can't say that your actions determined.

What does "from an outside perspective" mean? I can look at myself from an outside perspective. I can record what my parts do. I can have others record it for me. But, of course, that would be pointless because I already assume that the laws of physics apply to all matter. I don't agree with what you have said here.

Once you think about yourself being determined by your environment you are already affecting yourself and the decision what action to take. And if you don't think about what external influences there are that have an effect on your decisions then you are determined by them. You choose not to think, if you do that your actions are determined by your environment.

For your first sentence in this quote, you have to justify it. I disagree with you, because I believe that I am determined, yet I still think the same as I normally would. The fact that my body is a mechanism that follows the laws of physics doesn't change my decisions.

For your second and third sentences in this quote, you are assuming that things other information are affecting your decisions. You see, the brain is normally isolated from the world. It is only affected by observations of incoming information to make a choice, but that doesn't go against the concept of free will. If you don't want to think, then you are allowing your subconscious mind to make choices for you. But, this doesn't mean that the free will concept is damaged by the idea of determinism, as I have just shown you.

If you go through the supermarket and blindly grab random items then your eating habits will be determined by the choice of the owner of the supermarket what goods to present to you. If you instead inform yourself about the nutritions and visit special stores then your eating habits are not determined, you have the choice (not very good example, I don't want to say that supermarkets are bad, I just wanted to make the point of choice/determinism).

First off, you make the assumption that people "blindly grab random items". Why do you say this? What is the significance of using this scenario? Nobody does this. Your hypothetical is just not applicable to real life. Could you please refine the story so that it applies to what we're talking about? I provided an applicable scenario near end of post #191. (the pizza scenario) Take a look at that and come back to me.

To summarize: You have a free will only as far as you use your mind. If you don't make a conscious choice then the choice will be made by someone (or something, e.g. a natural law) else.

Yes, but you must use your mind to make a choice. I don't see how someone else would make a choice for me unless they knew the inner workings of my brain, was able to directly influence it, and did so. Otherwise, they are just giving your brain information to process.

Edit: I noticed that you quoted my challenge, too. If you were attempting to answer it, then you haven't even touched upon the concepts which you needed to. (How does the mind work if not with the laws of physics? Do you need to accept the existence of the soul?)

Edited by Martian

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I think I see what you're saying here. But, I want to show you that the idea that is widely accept as an explanation free will, is false. To say that your molecules are not obeying the laws of physics is just a bad inference. It's like assuming that an illusionist is doing real magic. Tell me this, do you think that the matter in your body follows that laws of physics? Tell me this, do you think that the matter in the illusionist's "magic" is following the laws of physics? If you say "yes" to both questions, then you are a determinist. If you say "no" to both questions, then you are not a determinist, and we cannot continue a discussion on this because we have different premises. If you said "yes" to one, and "no" to the other, I'd like you to explain how this can be.

yes/yes.

What does "from an outside perspective" mean? I can look at myself from an outside perspective. I can record what my parts do. I can have others record it for me. But, of course, that would be pointless because I already assume that the laws of physics apply to all matter. I don't agree with what you have said here.

You can't look at yourself from an outside perspective and record what you are currently doing. The only thing you would record is that you are recording yourself which ends in an infinite circle again. And if you let people or machines record your actions/thoughts you will be able to look at the data after you acted and you will be able to tell what made you do what you did (only to a certain degree, there are technical limits, you can't record everything).

But what I meant with "You can't say that your actions are determined" points in a very different direction: Using determinism as an excuse in order to be not responsible for your actions is not possible.

The point is that you can never say that 'you can't act otherwise because your will is determined by X' as an excuse because the moment you say that you can eliminate the influence of X in your decision (X being for example a single memory). Advertising is a good example, if you can spot a "X" (e.g. a beautiful face, many people react in a positive way when seeing one) in the ad you can eliminate the influence of that in your buying decision and concentrate on other values of the advertised object that are more useful for you.

In addition this applies to everyone. You have to assume that no-one can say that he/she can't act otherwise and that every rational being comes to the same (this) conclusion as you.

Lastly you cannot say that 'you could not have acted otherwise in the past because you didn't know that your will was determined by X' as an excuse because (assuming you were a rational person then) you knew (in order to have a free will and not being determined by something else, i.e. being responsible for your own actions) that you need to gather as much information about your environment as possible.

Thus, even if determinism is true, all prerequisites for what Objectivism uses from the concept of "free will" for higher concepts (e.g. Capitalism) are met: Rational people are responsible both for negative (destruction => penalty) as well as positive (production => earnings) actions.

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Thus, even if determinism is true, all prerequisites for what Objectivism uses from the concept of "free will" for higher concepts (e.g. Capitalism) are met: Rational people are responsible both for negative (destruction => penalty) as well as positive (production => earnings) actions.

No, if man does not have free will in the sense that he can make choices on a fundamental level, then there is no rationality. Rationality is volitionally adhering to the facts of reality. And it is a fact of reality that we have free will and can be rational. We can also be rationalistic, as Martian et al are being, and coming to a conclusion about man based not based on observation, but rather by deducing that since man is made of matter and matter is deterministic, then man does not have free will.

But man does have free will, and all of the twisted rationalisms of Martian et al will not change that.

You have all chosen to post to this topic, it wasn't the deterministic fluttering of your atoms that did that. YOU chose to post, and YOU choose to hold a contradictory identification of man's nature.

Free will is not magic, and the fact that you continue to hold the free will stance as magical means that you are not capable of making a first-hand observation of what you choose to do with your own mind and your own fingers when you write your contradictory postings.

I have been following this thread and there hasn't been anything that Martian et al have written that ought to convince anyone that they don't have free will. Free will and reason are abilities that we have by being man. We don't know the details of how that comes about biologically, but it is a real ability. Your continued denials of this ability means that you are being evasive. And you are being evasive about the contradiction involved in your claim that man is deterministic and yet somehow can make choices. If he can make choices then he is not deterministic.

A computer does not have free will, it only does what it is programmed to do, but man is not like that, since he has free will. A man must choose to focus his mind, which is his fundamental choice, and by focusing his mind and directing it consciously he can become rational. It is an individual's choice to focus and to take conscious control of his mind or not; and that is a fundamental fact about man's nature, which Martian et al have been denying now for quite some time.

I mean, maybe you are a martian and martians don't have free will, but man does have free will, and I have freely chosen to get back into this thread of my own free will to point out your contradiction and your evasiveness.

Basically, it is nihilism to deny that man has free will, because free will is directly observable -- it is a fact of reality; a fact that you are evading.

My posting this reply was not necessitated. It was chosen.

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yes/yes.

I agree with you here.

You can't look at yourself from an outside perspective and record what you are currently doing. The only thing you would record is that you are recording yourself which ends in an infinite circle again. And if you let people or machines record your actions/thoughts you will be able to look at the data after you acted and you will be able to tell what made you do what you did (only to a certain degree, there are technical limits, you can't record everything).

I agree. I was just saying that you can look at yourself "from an outside perspective" to figure out if your parts *were* obeying the laws of physics. Granted, you cannot do this very well in real time because, like you said, it leads to infinite regression. Though, you can still look back and see what happened so that you can check to see if brain contradicted the principle of determinism. But, like I said, that would be silly to check it, just to make sure. Nevertheless, I agree with what you said here.

But what I meant with "You can't say that your actions are determined" points in a very different direction: Using determinism as an excuse in order to be not responsible for your actions is not possible.

Indeed. I am saying the same thing. People can't shrug away responsibility. That is because they have the ability to comprehend. If you either choose to do wrong, or just refuse to think about it, you will still be held responsible.

The point is that you can never say that 'you can't act otherwise because your will is determined by X' as an excuse because the moment you say that you can eliminate the influence of X in your decision (X being for example a single memory). Advertising is a good example, if you can spot a "X" (e.g. a beautiful face, many people react in a positive way when seeing one) in the ad you can eliminate the influence of that in your buying decision and concentrate on other values of the advertised object that are more useful for you.

Very good. I agree that you cannot say that your will is determined by 'X'. That is because 'X' is an abstraction. It isn't irreducible. There is more information to it than that, and by saying just 'X' you don't account for exactly what is gong on with the particles that compose it. For you and I agree our particles are deterministic.

In addition this applies to everyone. You have to assume that no-one can say that he/she can't act otherwise and that every rational being comes to the same (this) conclusion as you.

Well, yeah. This is the hard part when talking about "can". The fact is that a person can only make one choice in a give state. Of course, during their thought process they considered other options which they are capable of doing, but they refused them because they wanted the thing that they chosen, the most. So, yeah, I totally agree.

Lastly you cannot say that 'you could not have acted otherwise in the past because you didn't know that your will was determined by X' as an excuse because (assuming you were a rational person then) you knew (in order to have a free will and not being determined by something else, i.e. being responsible for your own actions) that you need to gather as much information about your environment as possible.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. The way that 'X' affects you is by being information that your mind considers. If 'X' is someone poking around in your brain triggering your neurons, then you don't have free will because your mind is subject to outside influence that is other than information. Of course, this is rarely the case. The brain is in isolation and is only affected by information under normal conditions. If that is what you're saying, then I agree.

Thus, even if determinism is true, all prerequisites for what Objectivism uses from the concept of "free will" for higher concepts (e.g. Capitalism) are met: Rational people are responsible both for negative (destruction => penalty) as well as positive (production => earnings) actions.

I agree with this. I think we're saying the same thing.

Do you confirm that we are in agreement on this issue?

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No, if man does not have free will in the sense that he can make choices on a fundamental level, then there is no rationality.

Please, explain further. What does a "choice on a fundamental level" mean?

Free will and reason are abilities that we have by being man. We don't know the details of how that comes about biologically, but it is a real ability.

Please, explain further. What do you mean by, "We don't know the details of how that comes about biologically"?

Do you think that man's mind is fundamental?

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No, if man does not have free will in the sense that he can make choices on a fundamental level, then there is no rationality.

I did not say that man does not have a free will. I said that you can't say that your actions are determined and that in order to make a free choice you need to use your mind and analyze the information you have available.

Actually I'm not sure if rationality and free will ultimately names the very same concept and that neither follows from the other. I agree that there can't be rationality without free will. But I also think that there can't be a free will without rationality, either. You have to have consciousness in order to have a free will, you have to determine what of what you know corresponds to reality, what your choices are and what consequences each choice has. If you know nothing about reality you won't even be able to choose between A and B because you don't even know that these choices exist.

So either both free will and rationality are a direct corollary of the axiom of consciousness or they name the very same concept.

A computer does not have free will, it only does what it is programmed to do, but man is not like that, since he has free will.

There is no reason why a computer program couldn't have free will as well. Computer programs can more than they are programmed to, they can evolve (without the direct help of a programmer) the same way as man evolved from apes (and I mean "evolved" literally, i.e. through a process of interacting with reality (with sensors or within a simulated reality in the computer) and elimination of programs that fail, i.e. evolution) and develop a structure similar to the brain.

Well, yeah. This is the hard part when talking about "can". The fact is that a person can only make one choice in a give state. Of course, during their thought process they considered other options which they are capable of doing, but they refused them because they wanted the thing that they chosen, the most. So, yeah, I totally agree.

What I meant with "can" was that of course one can say that he's not responsible, but that this would be a contradiction.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. The way that 'X' affects you is by being information that your mind considers. If 'X' is someone poking around in your brain triggering your neurons, then you don't have free will because your mind is subject to outside influence that is other than information. Of course, this is rarely the case. The brain is in isolation and is only affected by information under normal conditions. If that is what you're saying, then I agree.

Yes, with "X" I meant a piece of information, a current sensation etc.

I agree with this. I think we're saying the same thing.

Do you confirm that we are in agreement on this issue?

I have to reread your comments, but I think we are.

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